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Nettle and Markham in France
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974) Scaramouche, Op.165b
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924) Berceuse (from "Dolly Suite")
Erik SATIE (1866-1925) Gymnopédie No.1
Cécile CHAMINADE (1857-1944) Le Matin
Jacques IBERT (1890-1962) Le petit âne blanc (from "Histoires)
Georges BIZET (1818-1875)

Marche: Trompette et Tambour (from "Jeux d’enfants")
Berceuse: La Poupée (from "Jeux d’enfants")
Impromptu: La Toupie from ("Jeux d’enfants")
Galop: Le Bal (from "Jeux d’enfants")
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)

L’Embarquement pour Cythère
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Prélude (from "L’Enfant Prodigue")
Cortège et Air de danse (from "L’Enfant Prodigue")
Reynaldo HAHN (1875-1947) Pour bercer un convalescent No.2
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) Laideronnette, Impératrice des Pagodes (from "Ma Mère l’Oye")
Désiré-Emile INGHELBRECHT (1880-1965) Sur le pont d’Avignon (from "La Nursery", vol.3)
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Fossiles (from "Carnaval des Animaux")
Le Cygne (from "Carnaval des Animaux")
Franck BARCELLINI (b.1920) Souvenirs de "Mon Oncle"
Jean FRANÇAIX (1912-1997) Baiao
Erik SATIE (1866-1925)

Grande Ritournelle
Cancan ‘Grand Mondain’
Joseph CANTELOUBE (1879-1957)

L’Aïo de Rotso (from "chants d’Auvergne")
Bailèro (from "chants d’Auvergne")
Malorous qu’o uno fenno (from "chants d’Auvergne")
Obal, din lou Limouzi (from "chants d’Auvergne")
David Nettle and Richard Markham (pianos)
rec. 7-9 June 1993, St. George’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol, England. DDD
NEMA NEMACD300 [75'23]


Having recently had the pleasure of reviewing this team’s ‘In England’ CD, I put this one in the player with a frisson of anticipation, hoping for a similar diet of pianistic fireworks and relaxed lyricism. I was not disappointed. As before, the CD consists of a wide variety of nineteenth and twentieth century music, with a core of major works balancing some lighter bonbons and one or two nice surprises. There are slightly more excerpts this time around; I have no objection in principle but the sensitive performance of "Laideronnette" made me want to hear more of "Ma Mère l’Oye". However, making room on the CD would mean losing some treats.

The relative importance of the works played here could be disputed but Milhaud’s "Scaramouche" suite must be near the top of the list. Nettle and Markham’s performance is full of joie de vivre; the slightly raucous sound of recordings from this source is ideal for the verve and zaniness of the opening Vif. The sentimental exchanges of the Modéré are delightfully exaggerated and the Rumba makes a, dare I say it, suitably rumbustious finale.

Also musically substantial is Poulenc’s "Elégie", which, although a memorial piece and deeply felt, is not intended to be sombre. Indeed, it is quite grand in a splashy, cabaret sort of way, like velvet Victorian upholstery in a Paris café. In contrast, "L’Embarquement pour Cythère" is an uproarious take on Watteau’s classically inspired painting of 1717, played here for all it is worth, that is, as one of the most purely joyous pieces in all music, the epitome of Poulenc’s secular style.

Totally new to me was "L’Enfant Prodigue", Debussy’s winning entry in the 1884 Prix de Rome. The innocent ear familiar with his mature works might not guess Debussy as the composer (Hahn perhaps), yet the two extracts, showing the influence of Delibes, are eminently worth a listen. Incidentally, Debussy disliked Italy and learnt little from his stay in Rome (beware of internet biographers who have not checked their sources – Debussy spent only two years there rather than the prescribed three).

Of the several nice surprises on the CD, one comes from Hahn himself in the shape of a sweet valse triste for two pianos written for a war-wounded friend. It’s good to know that Nettle and Markham, mighty virtuosos both, are prepared to turn their hands to relatively trifling yet worthwhile material. Hahn’s music, though limited in ambition, needs more support (Hyperion have made some notable recordings).

The Canteloube arrangements work well, particularly the folksy dances but even the delicious elaborations of "Bailèro" come across with sunlit languidness in the instrumental form. The "Carnaval des Animaux" transcriptions are also a great success with Saint-Saëns’ swan gliding effortlessly on rippling waters. One solo-to-double translation that doesn’t entirely work is Satie’s first "Gymnopédie" where the, admittedly few, decorations seem to work against the character of the piece. Against that, the solemn quality is maintained and even reinforced by some additions in the deep bass. The many delights to be discovered on this disc wholly mitigate the disappointment of not having the whole of "Ma Mère l’Oye" and the "Dolly Suite", the extracts from which are beautifully played.

Another winner from this splendid team!

Roger Blackburn

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